The Leaf Blower Battle
The recent Los Angeles ban on leaf blowers has renewed many local residents
interest in a comprehensive ban on all gas-powered two-stroke machines
throughout the Coachella Valley.
Joan Graves, wife of actor Peter Graves, who spearheaded the Los Angeles
ban, states: "For ten years we tried to get a ban on the basis of
noise; we succeeded only when the public became aware that these machines
also pose serious health and environmental hazards. Studies have shown
that the particulates spewed into the air by leaf blowers contribute to
and aggravate respiratory and allergy problems, as well as add a significant
amount of pollution."
"They're like hair dryers, too," she adds, "since they
dry out and destroy the fragile topsoil." According to CALOSHA, hearing
loss and other medical implications also begin occurring after only twenty
minutes of exposure to the machines per day. The South Coast Air Quality
Management District also states that a typical 3.5 horsepower gas mower
can emit the same amount of volatile organic compounds (VOC) - key precursors
to smog - in an hour as a new car driven 340 miles. Although Indian Wells
has had a successful leaf blower ban in effect since 1990, other communities
such as Palm Springs and Palm Desert have been slow to follow, despite
a growing concern from their constituents.
Palm Desert residents,in particular,feel frustrated that their city,
which claims to be an environmental leader, has downplayed this issue.
For many years, Marian Henderson, the founder of Desert Beautiful, has
put her organization on the side of getting noise and poor air quality
eliminated all over the Desert. An advocate of children as well, she has
seen their health problems escalate over the past year, and feels strongly
that young people should not inhale the pollutants, pesticides, fecal
matter, etc., from these machines at such an important time in their lives.
"If they can clean up and regulate motorcycles, they can clean up
these machines. They should just be banned!"
Traveler's Inn Manager Pattie Butts agrees. "The Desert should be
synonymous with peace and quiet, especially for our visitors who come
here to rest and relax. Instead, Palm Desert has increasing amounts of
noise and pollution of the worst kind. We get a lot of complaints from
guests who cannot sleep because of loud blowers coming from the parking
lot, and guests at the pool regularly complain about the horrible noise
South Palm Desert resident Marian Carter, whose neighborhood has been
plagued for years by daily noise and pollution from the bordering Sandpiper
Community, adds, "We knew we had lots of residential support for
a ban, but now we know we have the support of the business community as
well. With the exception of the Marriott Desert Springs Resort, all the
local hotels, inns, stores, etc., that we contacted said a comprehensive
ban would not be a problem for them."
"When local residents cannot open their windows or doors, go out
in their backyards, sleep or work for days at a time because of unbearable
noise and fumes, and suffer enormous physical damage on top of it all,
our city officials need to protect their citizens and the community, and
ban all two-stroke engines, beginning with the leaf blowers. Since more
people than ever before now work at home-estimated by some economists
to be twenty-five per cent (25%) of the work force-you also have a lot
more people being affected," explained Carter. "I've seen everything
from birds being blown apart to plants being decimated by these awful
machines. Even luxury cars parked at the Town Center near Highway 111
get debris blown right into their grills when the blowers go by. Sandpiper's
prolonged noise and fumes have woken up and driven away many of our guests
and even some potential homeowners, so it has really become an intolerable
situation on all levels.."
Martin Lax, a lawyer who resides in Indian Wells, but works in Palm Desert
concurs, "My wife and I had planned to buy a new home in Palm Desert,
but we ended up in Indian Wells because it felt so much quieter, cleaner,
and safer for ourselves and our baby. It's nice to know our City Council
has its citizens' health and welfare in mind - like Indian Wells. Leaf
blowers, edgers, etc., are the kind of problem that bothers everyone but
because people are so busy, it's also the kind of problem they expect
their City Councils to address, especially in a progressive area like
As of last May, forty-two cities throughout California either had or
were considering leaf blower bans, including San Diego and Sacramento.
Glenn Barr, Deputy to L.A. City Councilman Marvin Braude, says, "Leaf
blowers only became popular in the seventies as a result of California's
multi-year drought. City Councils have every reason to connect the quality
of life in their communities with the health of their tourist industry.
Tourism is not a one time business. A city will succeed as a tourist destination
if people feel welcome and comfortable. It's hard to feel comfortable
if loud noises and clouds of dust make it impossible to sleep, carry on
a conversation, or breathe clean air."